Record Keeper: Software Helps County With ComplianceRecord Keeper: Software Helps County With Compliance
The problems that go along with records management and regulatory compliance are exemplified by Tarrant County, Texas.
July 23, 2005
The problems that go along with records management and regulatory compliance are exemplified by Tarrant County, Texas. The county, which includes Fort Worth, must comply with federal regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as well as federal, state, and local laws governing records retention. Over the years, the county has accumulated 122,000 containers of files within its records center. The files contain documents with varying retention periods, ranging from several years to as many as 30.
The mass of paper records made it impossible to sort out which documents could be disposed of and which needed to be retained. Instead, the county's policy is to retain entire files for the duration of the document with the longest retention period, says Larry Vick, Tarrant County's records-management officer.
In order to comply with records-retention regulations, the county needed to shift from its reliance on paper. The solution was ViewDirect, a content-management system from Mobius Management Systems Inc.
After its implementation in 1997, the system was used to store mainframe-generated printed reports electronically in a centralized repository, where they could be accessed by the sheriff's department and the offices of domestic relations, public health, the medical examiner, the district attorney, and others. It also was used for information-life-cycle management of computer-generated reports to comply with regulations.
Then the county began scanning paper documents and images into the repository. Some of the records in those 122,000 containers are on 60,000 reels of microfilm; the county is digitizing those records and storing them in the repository as well. "The goal is to give authorized users access to all records, regardless of media, at their desktops," Vick says.
When a paper document is scanned, it's tagged with its retention period. When the retention period expires, the record is purged from the system. If a record is permanent, it's tagged as such and will never be erased. Paper documents may be either destroyed immediately or retained. "The electronic record is a true government record, and the paper copy is a copy of convenience," Vick says.
The county has linked its records repository with its SAP R/3 financial system, enabling invoices from the county's suppliers to be scanned into the repository, sent electronically to the appropriate department for approval, then processed by SAP.
A prime example of the way the system improves efficiency is in criminal cases. All records related to a case--offense reports, crime scene and morgue shots, medial examiner's reports, videos of people caught driving while intoxicated--are stored in the repository. The system's indexing lets users search for records by case number, offense type, address, or name.
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